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The Iroha is an archaic Japanese poem that was once used to order the kana syllabary. Its first known copy dates to 1079; at the time it was written, it contained each unique kana syllable exactly once. Since then, the language has changed in certain ways-- for example, the ん "syllabic n" kana did not yet exist, some of the older kana are no longer used, and several words have shifted in pronunciation-- and it has become more common in modern times to sort the kana in a more logical order based on the vowels. However, the Iroha order is still used in certain contexts such as notes of the musical scale or theatre seating.
|i-ro ha ni-ho-he-to||いろはにほへと|
|wa-ka yo ta-re so||わかよたれそ|
|u-wi no o-ku-ya-ma||うゐのおくやま|
|a-sa-ki yu-me mi-shi||あさきゆめみし|
|we-hi mo se-su||ゑひもせす|
An approximate translation of the poem, with some interpolations, might run as follows: "The color and fragrance of flowers fade away from our world, where nothing lasts forever. Though mortal existence seems to tower over us like a mountain, cross over it now and overcome its temptations and illusions".
The Iroha sequence appears in two different places in Ōkami: the relative power rankings of Imps, and the maze of sliding doors on Oni Island which is labelled with hiragana on the floor of each room.
The initial entrance to the Oni Island maze is via the three rooms of the "i-ro-ha" line at the bottom; thereafter, the rest of the poem is rearranged into rows of five kana each, with the exit through the bombable wall of the "su" (す) room that represents the last syllable of the poem and the "syllabic n" (ん) kana added to fill in the last corner of the grid.
The following grid shows the layout of the maze rooms, although the walls between them are not shown: